Rockford Speedway celebrates last big racing event weekend
LOVES PARK, Ill. (WIFR) - Green flags will soon be a distant memory at Rockford Speedway as only red flags will wave after this season since the owners sold the property earlier this year.
Hundreds of racers, pit crews and fans spent this weekend enjoying three jam-packed days of racing at Rockford Speedway during the final National Short Track Championships in the track’s 76-year history.
“A part of your childhood and a part of your life are gone,” said Tom Gille, Big 8 Late Model #40.
Gille from Winnebago started racing at Rockford Speedway in 1985 but has been going for over 60 years. He won his first race in 2001 and has made every position in top 10. He says his son has won 2 track championships.
The sound of engines revving, staring at the flagman until he waves the green flag to start the race and seeing the back pits full of race cars are just three things racers say they will miss about Rockford Speedway.
“95% of the friends that I have in my life are from the racetrack,” Gille said.
Sunday marked the finale of the speedway’s big events. The Midwest’s best race car drivers compete in endurance races during the 58th annual National Short Track Championships.
“A normal weekly race for the late models here is a 40-lap race where this is 158 laps,” said Joshua Lundy, Big 8 Late Model #11.
Lundy from Roscoe has been racing at Rockford Speedway for 20 years. He was top 3 in points last year and is currently top 10 in the NASCAR Sportsmen weekly division.
“You get to run with all people you race against all over the states,” said Tyler Hromadka, Big 8 Late Model #3.
Hromadka from Colgate, WI started racing at Rockford Speedway in 2015 and finished 5th in points in 2017.
Racers say the goal of the endurance race is to stay focused to avoid a wrecked car.
“It’s about saving tires, not wearing yourself out, being able to get a good time at the end,” Lundy said.
“It’s a fun race, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Dale Nottestad. “Just gotta stay out of trouble, it’s a long one, just stay cool.”
Nottestad from Cambridge, WI started racing 30 years ago. His first time at Rockford Speedway was in 2010 when he won the Spring Classic. He went as a kid to watch his dad race and now his son became a Rockford Speedway driver on Friday, the first night of the National Short Track Championships.
Every race car driver 23 News talked to at the speedway say they will forever cherish the memories they made growing up at the track.
“Probably my favorite track really. I came here as a kid watching Joe Scherer, Rich Bickle, all of them guys growing up. It’s going to suck when it goes away,” Nottestad said.
“A lot of people are going to miss it, I’m going to miss it,” Hromadka said. “It’s a cool place to come race.”
Even though this is the speedway’s last big event, there is more to come this season such as the Bahama Bracket Nationals and the Last Lap Season Finale.
Copyright 2023 WIFR. All rights reserved.